Brain health and cognition in our aging parents and grandparents is a big concern to as family members and caregivers of seniors. We all want their brains to stay sharp and are especially worried about our elders cognition as they face the future.
Our senior loved ones’ healthy brain function is one major factor in whether they can age in place in their beloved homes and communities instead of a senior living facility. Can they continue to care for themselves, make sound decisions, balance their checkbooks, take their medications safely and function alone or with minimal assistance from family members?
What we eat now when we make changes to our current lifestyle is only a piece of the puzzle to maintain healthy brain function, at least according to an interesting article we found recently. What our seniors have eaten throughout their lives as well has been shown to influence their cognition as they age.
It is, of course, not new information that diet and physical health are connected, but a recent study published in the journal Neurology seems to validate the connection. This study was different from many reports we’ve seen, as it was based on actual measurements of peoples’ blood levels of certain nutrients indicating a dietary pattern rather than on what a person tells a researcher through a food diary.
According to this study, “older people with high levels of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins B, C, D, and E in their blood do better on cognitive tests than those with lower levels.” Seniors with high levels of trans fat in their blood had impaired cognition.
What this study will mean to our senior loved ones (and also us) is that doctors will be able to test our blood for specific harmful nutrients or those that will be beneficial for our brain health and use that information to determine a course of action for dietary changes. If our blood levels are low in certain nutrients, we could add the appropriate food sources into our daily menus to improve our health and also reduce any foods that are damaging, such as trans fat.
It seems that trans fat continues to be a substance we all need to avoid — just in case we needed one more study to tell us. It appears that good choices and changes in the way our senior loved ones eat can help their brain health.
6 Healthy Food Choices for Seniors
- Fish – rich in omega 3 fatty acids and B12
- Walnuts – high in antioxidants
- Carrots – contain luteolin to reduce brain inflammation (olive oil, peppers and celery also good sources)
- Berries – contain antioxidants
- Coffee and tea – shown to improve cognition and reduce signs of Alzheimer’s
- Spinach – good source of Vitamins C and E
No study is conclusive and more research into this diet and brain health correlation, with a wider range of diverse subjects over a longer time, is needed. Until then, it is worth the effort to pay closer attention to our senior’s food choices and get a balanced diet.